The cavalcade of re-releases of previous-generation titles continues with God of War III Remastered. Previously, Sony has re-released the PS2-era games and PSP games in collections of two for the PS3, however God of War III arrives on the PS4 all by its lonesome, at a AU $54.95 pricepoint. Is it worth picking up again?
God of War III is the end-point for the demigod Kratos’ storyline, as even newer releases like God of War: Ascension have had to wedge themselves in the cracks of previous episodes. This is for good reason, as the game largely concerns itself with Kratos brutally dispensing with every Greek God that he comes across, destroying the world as he does so. What was a tragic arc for the character in earlier games becomes simplified this time around, as Kratos’ single-mindedness is pushed to the extreme. Kratos hates Zeus for attempting to kill him, so with the aid of the Titans he launches an all-out assault on Mount Olympus. It’s basically a three-way battle, with the Gods, the Titans and Kratos each trying to take the other out, but it’s rarely glimpsed outside of certain stand-out tentpole moments, which do impress.
Most of your time is spent journeying up and down Olympus along the Chain of Balance, inside caves, mazes and labyrinths as Kratos seeks the Flame of Olympus, for the power to defeat Zeus. The journey takes him from Hades and the pits of Tartarus, all the way up to the top of Olympus and everywhere in between. This means there is occasionally some backtracking, including the final major puzzle section of the game taking place in a location seen pretty early on. In a sense, it makes the game feel smaller (and the gameplay length of five or six hours doesn’t help this either), but also more focused, as if the game is all just one puzzle you need to solve to unlock the final battle with Zeus. I didn’t remember some of the more questionable violence in the game – one section has you lead a half-naked helpless concubine of Poseidon around a maze, only to impale and crush her on a wheel at the end without a second’s thought. In any other series, Kratos would undoubtedly be the villain – driven by vengeance, destroying everything that comes in his path at the expense of the innocent, and eventually the entire world.
The combat is what you pay for with these games, and God of War III brought a new range of weapons and abilities to the table. Magic abilities are now chained to specific weapons, such as the Claws of Hades (fast and low-powered) being also able to summon monsters with the use of magic power. Kratos’ trusty Blades of Exile generally seem to have the most useful range of combos and abilities, and its Army of One magic ability can take out a field of baddies, especially when upgraded. The Nemean Cestus gauntlets are my go-to weapon after the Blades, delivering powerful blows that can crush enemies quickly, while the Nemesis Whip which delivers electric shocks is fun to build-up combos. Kratos is also able to pick up enemies to use them as battering rams, attach himself to flying enemies to use them to get across gaps, and ride larger foes to deliver major damage on the battlefield. Every blow is meaty, every victory satisfying and the combat system stands out as the best part of the game.
Boss battles range in quality – the best moments combine Shadow of the Colossus with God of War’s signature brutality, which see you climbing the outside of a Titan, scaling a larger mountain, or trying to viciously pull the fingernail off the massive lumbering Cronos. By comparison, the final confrontation with Zeus is disappointing, especially given the difficulty of your last encounter in God of War II. The battle is set-up throughout the entire game, but ultimately takes place in pretty cramped arenas, the last of which has a regular and ample supply of health replenishment to make things easier. The quick-time events in this battle, and throughout the game, are easier and less intense than previous installments as well.
Beyond this, there is a range of basic puzzle solving and platforming to flesh out the rest of the experience. Much of this is quite easy, involving simple pushing-and-pulling blocks and levers, but occasionally there is a spot of inspired design. Hera’s garden maze takes a cue from the PS3 game Echochrome, and relies on your manipulation of perspective, and is a refreshing departure from the drudgery of some of the other puzzles.
God of War III Remastered brings the most obvious upgrade of 1080p resolution to the game, running at around 60fps, which is a definite improvement over the PS3 version’s 30fps. Kratos’ model especially now shines in close detail, but side characters like Hermes, or even Zeus, haven’t received the same attention to detail, and have relatively flat textures which stick out like a sore thumb. This release also includes all of the DLC for the original, and a new Photo mode activated via the touchpad.
There’s not much to say about what distinguishes God of War III Remastered from God of War III, as it’s the same game. It runs better, looks sharper and plays just as well. Probably the most interesting part for me came from revisiting the game after five years and seeing whether it still holds up – and the answer is ‘mostly’. Some of the visuals have since been outdone by God of War Ascension on PS3 (although obviously at a much lower frame-rate) and the simple storyline and disappointingly ambiguous wrap-up to the series stick out a lot more without the hype of the original release. The combat is still really fun, and some of the puzzles are memorable, but it doesn’t quite reach the overall balance of challenge and fun that God of War II achieved. At its lower price point, it’s worth picking up for those who have never played the game, but for any PS3-owners who’ve finished the game before, you may want to ask yourself if the extra FPS is really worth it.
Smooth remaster | Great combat | Focused design | Some memorable puzzles
Simple storyline | Disappointing finale | Relatively short